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From Bytes, February 23, 2011

RMS Queen Mary

Sydney Harbour hosted a spectacular royal rendezvous early this morning when the luxury ocean liners Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Elizabeth sailed into port under grey skies.

- News Report, Sydney Morning Herald 22.02.2011

Once upon a time there were two large shipping companies, the Cunard Line and the White Star Line.

(Old joke:
“I work for Cunard.”
“I work f’Cunard too.”)

The White Star Line built the Titanic, which sank in 1912 with the loss of 1,496 lives after striking an iceberg.

In 1934 the two companies merged to form Cunard- White Star Limited.

One of the issues that had to be resolved was naming of future ships. Cunard had a tradition of naming its ships with names that ended in “ia”, such as Lusitania, Mauretania and Aquitania. The White Star Line, on the other hand, had a tradition of ending its ships’ names with "ic", as in Olympic, Britannic and the ill-fated Titanic. Because Cunard had acquired the White Star Line, many considered that the Cunard tradition would prevail. Others felt it would be appropriate to commence a new naming tradition.

White Star and Cunard continued to separately build ships. White Star built a new ocean liner, Oceanic, and Cunard built two unnamed liners, Ships 534 and 552.

Cunard had kept the proposed name of ship 534 a closely guarded secret.

In 1936 a delegation led by Sir Ashley Sparks, then Chairman of Cunard Line's American offices, approached King George V for permission to name the ship Queen Victoria. 

Sir Ashley Sparks (1877-1964)

Prince George, Duke of York (later King George V) and Princess Victoria Mary of Tek (later Queen Mary) on their wedding day, July 6, 1893

Sir Ashley told King George that the company wanted to name the ship after "the greatest of all English queens." 

Upon hearing this, the king replied, "Oh, my wife will be pleased."

The delegation had no option but to name ship 534 Queen Mary. Ship 552 became Queen Elizabeth.

(This story has always been denied by company officials from the time that author Frank Brayard published it in his 1947 book, Lives of the Liners. In his 1979 autobiography For the Record, Washington Post editor Felix Morley, who sailed as a guest of the Cunard Line on Queen Mary's 1936 maiden voyage, wrote that he was placed at a table with Sir Percy Bates, chairman of the Cunard Line. Bates told him the story of the naming of the ship "on condition you won't print it during my lifetime." The story was finally proven in 1988 when Braynard attended the same dinner party as Eleanor Sparkes, daughter of Sir Ashley Sparkes, who had been with Bates during the conversation with George V. She confirmed the "favourite ship story" to him, telling the exact anecdote that Braynard had published in his book.)

Left to right:
Edward, Prince of Wales;
Arthur, Duke of Connaught;
Queen Mary;
King George V;
Princess Mary

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